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      Death's Heads, Cherubs, and Willow Trees: Experimental Archaeology in Colonial Cemeteries

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      American Antiquity

      JSTOR

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          Abstract

          Seventeenth and eighteenth-century gravestones in Massachusetts are decorated with a traditional set of designs which have distinctive spatial and temporal limits. By treating them as archaeological phenomena, one can demonstrate and test methods of inferring diffusion, design evolution, and relationships between a folk-art tradition and the culture which produced it. Early popularity of death's-head designs reflects Puritan attitudes toward death, while the later cherub, willow tree, and urn motifs indicate the breakdown of these values. Although cherubs appear earliest among an innovating urban class in Cambridge, they remain a relatively minor type in this central area but are rapidly adopted in outlying districts further removed from the center of influence. Imperfect reproduction of certain designs gives rise to distinctive local styles of other areas. The distribution of these local styles in time and space provides further insights regarding religious change in the Colonial period, including a clear indication of how this change proceeded in different geographical areas at different times. Future analysis of this material promises to be quite productive in the areas of experimental archaeology, kinship analysis, demographic studies, style change, and religious change in Colonial America.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          applab
          American Antiquity
          American Antiquity
          JSTOR
          0002-7316
          April 1966
          January 20 2017
          April 1966
          : 31
          : 04
          : 502-510
          Article
          10.2307/2694382
          © 1966

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